Performance immersion: Piss in the Pool 8
An annual tradition of in situ performance art with a typically queer inflection, Piss in the Pool 8 is the first time the event won’t be squatting in the Mile End. Far-flung Bain Mathieu is the new venue for a daringly curated programme from Wants & Needs Danse and Studio 303 that’s sure to sell out.
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Sasha Kleinplatz and Andrew Tay from Wants & Needs Danse have been programming their highly anticipated Piss in the Pool performance night for 8 years now. Although the co-curators were absent from opening night for the rather glamorous excuse of being in Québec City with Cirque du Soleil, the event has kept true to its reputation for showing short dance and performance works that breathe originality, the only real constraint being that of the venue: in a converted turn-of-the-century swimming pool.
No longer in Mile End’s dusty (and probably mouldy) Bain St-Michel – why hasn’t that place been turned into a cultural centre yet? – Kleinplatz and Tay took this year’s event further from the parallel Fringe festival, both geographically and thematically, to present a strong sampling of dance and live art from Montréal artists we just don’t get to see enough of.
Opening the show with an entrancing film noir ode, Dorian Nuskind-Oder worked magic with a flashlight and a 30-ft sheet of silver mylar. Accompanied by an unsettling original soundtrack by Simon Grenier-Poirier, the deceptively minimalist “Dark Sea” was perhaps the most expansive of the evening in using all of the gigantic Bain Mathieu space, reflecting light onto the ceiling to make Nuskind-Oder’s sequin-clad character appear underwater, with an equally stunning use of darkness. The beauty of the piece lay in the total absence of gimmicks: the techniques were obvious, and the effect sublime.
Piss in the Pool regular Dana Michel presented another one of her inscrutable and riveting solo works. “Whoopi” has Michel dressed in a hoodie, tooting on a trumpet and slowly eating a banana with unnervingly primate-like gestures. Never shying away from the implicit subject of race in her work – how many black contemporary dancers do you see on Montréal stages? – Michel’s piece is uncomfortable to watch. The costume seemed to be a clear reference to murdered Florida teen Trayvon Martin, the trumpet a nod to the cultural expectations of black artists and “jazz,” but the overall piece remained hermetic.
A very unfortunate foray into imitating a francophone with Down syndrome was one of the only pieces that truly missed the mark on opening night. Leïla Gaudin’s “Errance à Montréal” could have been an interesting challenge to the expectations of the performance spectator (cohesiveness, illusion, affect), but the subject matter verged so close to being offensive that you didn’t really want to know what she was after. It remains a testament to Kleinplatz and Tay’s commitment to fresh work that Gaudin’s piece was allowed to remain in the show, however. What would a performance review be if there wasn’t at least one piece that made you ask “Was that really art?”
Since they’ve been away in Mexico City for the entire winter, you understand why performance/video/drag art duo 2boys.tv chose to load their closing piece “L’Âge d’or” with references to the student strike. “Thank you for doing something relevant,” one curator in the audience said to them afterwards. The 10-minute piece mixes all of the elements of a 2boys show one can hope for: vintage cinema, drag, and a little bit of the grotesque, but this time with the added element of news sound-bites from the reviled Jean Charest as voiceover. The incontinence of Jacqueline Desmarais in a supporting role steals the show.
Piss in the Pool 8
June 22 + 24, 8:30pm
@ Bain Mathieu, 2915 rue Ontario Est
Photo: Piss in the Pool (2011)